NEW SCOTLAND — Construction of a new visitor center at John Boyd Thacher State Park which was first announced in 2013 is now underway.
Officials expect the new visitor center to open during the Winter 2016-17 season. A state grant of $3.8 million made the initiative possible.
Visitors can already see progress on the new structure from both the park’s southern entrance and the popular Indian Ladder trail.
“I’m excited; It’s long overdue for Thacher Park. This is a jewel and a gem and it’s being recognized as such. The broader area will be a great attraction for more visitors from across the country, just as it was for professional geologists at the turn of the century,” said Maureen Curry, who manages both Thacher and Thompson Lake State Parks.
Construction on the new structure began two weeks ago and should be completed by early summer, in time for a company to come in to finalize exhibits in October.
According to Curry, while the exhibits will be “mostly geology and cultural history of the Helderbergs, Thacher Park and the Hilltowns,” their focus will also include human and cultural history.”
Permanent standing displays include a simulated cave experience, and exhibits on the escarpment, the area’s geology, and a time fossil. An outdoor exhibit purchased by the Friends of Thacher Park will lead into sets of children’s play sections, dispersed throughout the area, and set up in way that allows children to explore the entire area surrounding the visitor center, running from section to the next. One such area will include a rock wall in the back of the building.
For adults, outdoor spaces will feature chairs, tables and small fire pits.
“We have spectacular views, so we definitely wanted to feature that with outdoor patios, an upstairs patio and a downstairs patio with views that overlook Thacher Park, and an event room with large windows all overlooking the escarpment,” described Curry.
When complete, the visitor center will accomodate between 100 and 200 people. The patios may be rented out for weddings and other occasions.
A new mountain bike path which was part of the Thacher Park 2012 master improvement plan, located across the street from the site of the new center, is also up and running.
Contributions to the project are still being accepted with naming rights to benches and bricks available for purchase. To donate to the Park’s Visitor Center Fundraising Campaign, visit its website at www.nysparks.com/parks/128/details.aspx.